Guest blogger Alexa Lampasona, from the blog Active Tasty Life, (www.activetastylife.com, @ActiveTastyLife) gives us an inside look into what she learned at this week’s ACSM fitness conference—barefoot cardio.
When you decide to do a workout, the first thing you do is pull on a pair of shoes. But how about leaving the laces behind? WillPower & Grace method is a barefoot cardio workout designed to enhance your posture, balance and movement starting from the ground up. With 33 muscles in our feet, barefoot cardio challenges you to consciously think about putting your best foot forward. I attended the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health and Fitness Summit this past week, where I took a barefoot cardio class taught by founder Stacey Lei Krauss. Here, she shares her insight.
What inspired you to create the WillPower & Grace method?
I grew up as a modern dancer, and I frequently took group exercise classes barefoot, but I always wore shoes when I taught my own classes. One class I forgot my shoes, so I taught the class barefoot. A few of my students decided to take the class barefoot too, and I realized most people don’t know how to move their feet. I just heard a lot of foot slapping. So as a fitness professional, I used that as a teaching opportunity and created barefoot cardio.
You started teaching barefoot cardio more than 10 years ago, but why is it just now beginning to trend?
It was an uphill battle at first. But then the barefoot running book “Born to Run” came out, and now this movement is finally mainstream. There is no equipment involved, so it is cost-effective for people.
Why do we need to exercise our feet?
Our feet have both intrinsic muscles (deeper in the muscle tissue) that stabilize the body, and extrinsic muscles (that start in the lower leg and insert in the foot) that help us move. When your foot is in a shoe, your body uses primarily extrinsic muscles, so those intrinsic muscles don’t fire the way they should because they have added support and cushioning. When your feet slap down while walking, you lose range of motion and your joints don’t work properly.
Being barefoot creates a tactile sense to the workout. Why is that important?
As humans, we have primal senses. Just think of all the information we get from the skin when we touch it. Yet we never train our skin in a workout. Harnessing the tactile feelings brings about sensory integration and stimulates your skin. You learn to bring neural awareness to your feet.
Talk about how barefoot cardio creates mindfulness in your workout routine.
It’s a smart workout because we work in three planes of motion and there’s a sport psychology element to it. We teach you to use your body through the discipline of Pilates and the self awareness of yoga, but we also add a cardio element that many mind/body practices don’t have.
Benefits of Barefoot Cardio
- Better balance, which gives you a wider base of support and better push-off
- More efficient movement confidence
- Reduced risk of injury by training from the ground up
- Stabilized knees and hips
- Increased flexibility
Krauss suggests doing the WillPower & Grace barefoot cardio method one to two times a week in addition to other activities like running or cycling. For athletes, she has noticed a decrease in knee and hip injuries. You can get started with workout videos. Let’s hope Atlanta picks up on the trend soon so more classes become available.